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My wife and I recently had the pleasure of visiting Toronto for the first time. We were only in town for a day, so we only had time to see and do a few touristy things. Naturally, our first stop was the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Indiana is not exactly known as a hockey hotbed. The state has never been home to an NHL team, and (according to Hockey-Reference.com) only 7 Indiana-born players have ever played even a single game in the NHL.
Still, the Hoosier State is actually very well represented in the Hall of Fame. The Evansville IceMen and Fort Wayne Komets are featured in a few displays within the Hall’s modern-day section, and both Fort Wayne and Indianapolis have quite a presence in the Hall’s exhibits about hockey’s history.
I took nearly 200 pictures during our visit to hockey’s cathedral, including several that showcase Hoosier Hockey…
THE WALL OF PUCKS
Before you actually enter the Hall of Fame, your eyes can feast on an impressive wall of pucks – 1456 of them, to be exact!
The pucks are primarily older, the vast majority being at least 20 years old. Among them are a trio from the World Hockey Association’s Indianapolis Racers, two from the Fort Wayne Komets (from the franchise’s time in the original International Hockey League), and one from the original IHL’s Indianapolis Ice.
THE YEAR IN REVIEW
The “Hometown Hockey” wing focuses on North America’s minor professional leagues, junior and college hockey, and women’s hockey.
In this section is a large “Year In Review” wall, featuring various championship teams from the most recent fully-completed hockey season.
At the time of our visit, the season on display was 2011-2012, during which the Komets claimed the Central Hockey League’s Ray Miron President’s Cup championship. As a result, the “Year In Review” display includes both the Komets’ championship team picture and a photo of since-retired captain Colin Chaulk hoisting the President’s Cup.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
The “Hometown Hockey” wing also has a large display that features all of the current season’s new franchises throughout North America.
Because the IceMen and Komets technically joined the ECHL as expansion teams for the 2012-2013 season, both are included in this display.
Notice that the map says “Iceman” (singular) and also seems to indicate that Evansville is located somewhere in western Tennessee…
DOWN ON THE FARM
The “NHL Today” section has a display case with information and memorabilia for each NHL franchise, including an affiliation history.
Thanks to the team’s double affiliation during the 2012-2013 season, the IceMen are featured in the display cases for both the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Not pictured but also featured: The Komets’ recent ECHL affiliation with the Anaheim Ducks, the old IHL Indianapolis Ice’s affiliation with the Chicago Blackhawks, and the American Hockey League Indianapolis Capitals’ affiliation with the Detroit Red Wings.
THE TURNER CUP
The Hall of Fame includes an array of hockey’s championship trophies, including the famous Turner Cup.
The Turner Cup was awarded to the original IHL champions every season from 1945-1946 until the league ceased operations after the 2000-2001 season. The trophy then became property of the Hall of Fame until 2007, when the United Hockey League changed its name to the International Hockey League and resumed the annual awarding of the Cup. After 3 seasons, the “revival” of the IHL came to an end and the Turner Cup was returned to the Hall of Fame.
Like the Stanley Cup, the Turner Cup features several rings on which each championship team and player names are engraved. The Fort Wayne Komets originally claimed the Turner Cup four times – 1962-1963, 1964-1965, 1972-1973, and 1992-1993. The Indianapolis Chiefs won it during the 1957-1958 season, and the Indianapolis Ice earned it during the 1989-1990 season. The Komets later claimed all 3 Turner Cup championships during the IHL “revival” – 2007-2008, 2008-2009, and 2009-2010.
The Turner Cup display includes a profile about the trophy’s namesake, goaltender Joe Turner. Turner was NHL property of the Detroit Red Wings and played just one season of professional hockey before he was killed in action in World War II while serving in the United States Army.
During his lone year as a player, Turner was an All-Star for the AHL’s Indianapolis Capitals, who won the Calder Cup championship with Turner in net. After his death, the IHL chose to honor Turner’s sacrifice by naming its championship trophy after him – even though he never actually played a game in the IHL.
(Note: The Hall of Fame’s display references the “Capitols,” which is an error. The Indianapolis Capitols were a CHL franchise that began play in 1963 before moving to Cincinnati. Turner, in fact, played for the Indianapolis Capitals, who were members of the AHL from 1939 to 1952.)
THE GREAT HALL
The Great Hall is, fittingly, the best part of the Hall of Fame. It features the Stanley Cup, all of the NHL’s active trophies and awards, and plaques profiling every Hall of Fame inductee.
One of the Great Hall plaques honors longtime NHL broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick, who was the 2008 recipient of the Hall of Fame’s Foster Hewitt Award – hockey’s highest honor for broadcasters. Emrick had also previously been honored in 2004 with the Lester Patrick Trophy, which is awarded to those who make significant contributions to hockey in the United States. (Emrick was one of the first media members to ever earn the award.)
Now the voice of the NHL on NBC, “Doc” was born and raised about 75 miles northeast of Indianapolis. He earned his undergraduate degree from Manchester College, about 35 miles west of Fort Wayne, and became interested in hockey broadcasting by listening to Bob Chase (himself a 2012 Lester Patrick Trophy recipient) call Komets games on WOWO.
During the 2012-2013 season while the NHL lockout was ongoing, Emrick joined Chase in the broadcast booth for an entire IceMen/Komets ECHL game in Fort Wayne.
Also among the hundreds of plaques, of course, is one honoring “The Great One” himself, Wayne Gretzky. The plaque does mention that Gretzky began his career in the WHA, but it does not specifically reference the Indianapolis Racers. (Gretzky started his pro career with the Racers, playing 8 games in Indianapolis before he was traded to Edmonton.)
Fellow Hall of Famer Mark Messier also began his career with the Racers, playing 5 games on a tryout before signing a standard contract with the Cincinnati Stingers. When Messier retired in 2005, he was the last active player who had played in the WHA – and thus the last active player who had played for the Racers. Despite that, Messier’s Hall of Fame plaque does not reference his early days in the WHA.
THE STANLEY CUP
Gretzky and Messier are just two of many who spent time in Indianapolis before having their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. Some of the most notable and recent examples follow…
• Hall of Famers Sid Abel (21 games during the 1939-1940 season) and Alex Delvecchio (6 games during the 1951-1952 season) both played for the AHL’s Indianapolis Capitals before each winning 3 Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings.
• Another Hall of Famer, “Terrible” Ted Lindsay, played one game for the Capitals during his rookie season and eventually won 4 Stanley Cups with the Red Wings.
• Yet another Hall of Famer, goaltender Terry Sawchuk, spent most of his first two seasons with the Capitals. Sawchuk later won 3 Stanley Cups with Detroit, and a fourth with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
• Hall of Fame goaltender Glenn Hall played the entire 1951-1952 regular season with the Capitals, then served as the Red Wings’ backup goaltender during their 1952 Stanley Cup championship run. His name was engraved on the Cup despite the fact that he hadn’t yet actually played a single NHL game. Hall won the Cup again in 1961 with Chicago.
• Jacques Demers coached the WHA’s Indianapolis Racers for two seasons before leading the Montreal Canadiens to the 1993 Stanley Cup title, the last time a Canadian franchise won the Cup.
• Peter Laviolette played his first pro season with the IHL’s Indianapolis Checkers, then went on to coach the Carolina Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup championship.
• Darryl Sutter coached the IHL’s Indianapolis Ice to their lone Turner Cup championship in 1990, then moved up to the NHL and later led the Los Angeles Kings to their first Stanley Cup title in 2012.
• Brian Noonan and Warren Rychel each spent two seasons with the Ice (including the Turner Cup championship year) before winning the Stanley Cup – Noonan with Messier’s New York Rangers in 1994, and Rychel with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996.
• Two-time Stanley Cup champion and six-time Vezina Trophy winner Dominik Hasek started his pro career with the Ice in 1989. The Czech goaltender, a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, will be eligible for induction in 2014.
Saving the best for last, let’s finish with Hockey’s Holy Grail on display in the Great Hall…
Many longtime IceMen fans are probably wondering why I failed to mention Kira Hurley.
For those who don’t know, Hurley was a member of the IceMen during the team’s inaugural 2008-2009 season in the now-defunct All-American Hockey League (then the All-American Hockey Association). During a blowout victory over the Chicago Blaze on Valentine’s Day 2009, she was credited with an assist on one of Evansville’s goals – making her the first female goaltender to ever notch a point in a men’s professional hockey game.
Given the significance of her accomplishment, the Hockey Hall of Fame asked the IceMen organization for three items to put on display – Hurley’s game-used goalie stick and game-worn jersey, as well as the official game scoresheet listing the assist.
During our visit to the Hall of Fame, we walked the entire building and found no sign of Hurley’s memorabilia. We then asked a Hall of Fame staff member, who looked her name up in their internal directory. We were told that Kira’s items are no longer on display, and were likely only featured during the following hockey season (2009-2010) before being removed as part of routine exhibit updates.
While Hurley’s Hall of Fame stint is now apparently a thing of the past, those who were regulars at Swonder Ice Arena that first season will always remember her feat fondly and consider her a Hockey Hall of Famer.
Below are a photo of Hurley’s post-game recognition as one of the Three Stars of the Game after her historic helper, and a picture of Kira with the congratulatory plaque that the IceMen organization later presented to her.